Verse 26. My flesh and my heart faileth. They had failed him already, and he had almost fallen; they would fail him in the hour of death, and, if he relied upon them, they would fail him at once.
But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. His God would not fail him, either as protection or a joy. His heart would be kept up by divine love, and filled eternally with divine glory. After having been driven far out to sea, Asaph casts anchor in the old port. We shall do well to follow his example. There is nothing desirable save God; let us, then, desire only him. All other things must pass away; let our hearts abide in him, who alone abideth for ever.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 25-26. See Psalms on "Psalms 73:25" for further information.
Verse 26. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. In which words we may take notice of five things.
- The order inverted. When he mentions his malady he
begins with the failing of the flesh, and then of the
heart; but when he reports the relief he begins with
that of the heart. From hence observe that when
God works a cure in man (out of love) he begins with
the heart -- he cures that first. And there may
be these reasons for it.
- Because the sin of the heart is often the procuring cause of the malady of body and soul.
- The body ever fares the better for the soul, but not the soul for the body.
- The cure of the soul is the principal cure.
- The suitableness of the remedy to the malady.
Strength of heart for failing of heart, and a blessed
portion for the failing of the flesh. Observe,
that there is a proportionate remedy and relief in
God for all maladies and afflictions whatsoever, both
within and without. If your hearts fail you, God is
strength; if your flesh fails you, or comforts fail
you, God is a portion.
- The prophet's interest; he calls God his portion.
Observe, that true Israelites have an undoubted
interest in God: -- He is theirs.
- The prophet's experience in the worst time. He finds
this to be true, that when communicated strength
fails, there is a never failing strength in God.
Observe, that Christians' experiences of God's
all sufficiency are then fullest and highest when
created comforts fail them.
- There is the prophet's improvement of his experience
for support and comfort against future trials and
temptations. Observe, that a saint's consideration
of his experience of God's all sufficiency in times
of exigency, is enough to bear up and to fortify his
spirit against all trials and temptations for the
time to come.
Thus you may improve the text by way of observation; but there are two principal doctrines to be insisted on. First, that God is the rock of a saint's heart, his strength, and his portion for ever. Secondly, that divine influence and relief passeth from God to his people when they stand in most need thereof.
First. God is the rock of a saint's heart, strength, and portion for ever. Here are two members or branches in this doctrine.
- That God is the rock of a saint's heart, strength.
- That God is the portion of a saint. Branch
- God is the rock of a saint's heart, strength. He is not only strength, and the strength of their hearts, but the rock of their strength; so Isaiah 17:10 . Psalms 62:7 , rwc, the same word that is used in the text, from hence comes our English word "sure." Explication. God is the rock of our strength, both in respect of our naturals and also of our spirituals: he is the strength of nature and of grace ( Psalms 27:1 ); the strength of my life natural and spiritual. God is the strength of thy natural faculties -- of reason and understanding, of wisdom and prudence, of will and affections. He is the strength of all thy graces, faith, patience, meekness, temperance, hope, and charity; both as to their being and exercise. He is the strength of all thy comfort and courage, peace and happiness, salvation and glory. Psalms 140:7 . "O God, the rock of my salvation." In three respects. First. He is the author and giver of all strength. Psalms 18:32 : "It is God that girdeth me with strength." Psalms 24:11 : "He will give strength to his people." Psalms 138:3 68:35. Secondly. He is the increaser and perfecter of a saint's strength; it is God that makes a saint strong and mighty both to do and suffer, to bear and forbear, to believe and to hope to the end; so Hebrews 11:34 : "Out of weakness they were made strong;" so 1 John 2:14 . And therefore is that prayer of Peter, 1Pe 5:10. Thirdly. He is the preserver of your strength; your life is laid up in God. Colossians 3:3 . Your strength is kept by the strength of God; so Psalms 91:1 . God doth overshadow the strength of saints, that no breach can be made upon it. Ps 63:7. "In the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice." Samuel Blackerby.
Verse 26. Oh, strange logic! Grace hath learned to deduce strong conclusions out of weak premises, and happy out of sad. If the major be, My flesh and my heart faileth; and the minor, "There is no blossom in the fig tree, nor fruit in the vine," etc.; yet his conclusion is firm and undeniable: The Lord is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever; or, Yet will I rejoice in the God of my salvation. And if there be more in the conclusion than in the premises, it is the better; God comes even in the conclusion. John Sheffield, in "The Rising Sun." 1654.
Verse 26. My flesh and my heart faileth. They who take the expression in a bad sense, take it to be a confession of his former sin, and to have relation to the combat mentioned in the beginning of the Psalm, between the flesh and the spirit; as if he had said, I was so surfeited with self conceitedness that I presumed to arraign divine actions at the bar of human reason, and to judge the stick under water crooked by the eye of my sense, when, indeed, it was straight: but now I see that flesh is no fit judge in matters of faith; that neither my flesh nor heart can determine rightly of God's dispensations, nor hold out uprightly under Satan's temptations; for if God had not supported me my flesh had utterly supplanted me: My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart. Flesh is sometimes taken for corrupt nature. Galatians 5:13 . First, because it is propagated by the flesh ( John 3:6 ); secondly, because it is executed by the flesh ( Romans 7:25 ); thirdly, because corruption is nourished, strengthened, and increased by the flesh. 1 John 2:16 . They who take the words in a good sense, do not make them look back so far as the beginning of the Psalm, but only to the neighbour verse. George Swinnock.
Verse 26. God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. The Hebrew carrieth it, but God is the rock of my heart, i.e., a sure, strong, and immovable foundation to build upon. Though the winds may blow, and the waves beat, when the storm of death cometh, yet I need not fear that the house of my heart will fall, for it is built on a sure foundation: God is the rock of my heart. The strongest child that God hath is not able to stand alone; like the hop or ivy, he must have somewhat to support him, or he is presently on the ground. Of all seasons, the Christian hath most need of succour at his dying hour; then he must take his leave of all his comforts on earth, and then he shall be sure of the sharpest conflicts from hell, and therefore, it is impossible he should hold out without extraordinary help from heaven. But the psalmist had armour of proof ready, wherewith to encounter his last enemy. As weak and fearful a child as he was, he durst venture a walk in the dark entry of death, having his Father by the hand: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me," Psalm 23. Though at the troubles of my life, and my trial at death, my heart is ready to fail me, yet I have a strong cordial which will cheer me in my saddest condition: God is the strength of my heart.
And my portion. It is a metaphor taken from the ancient custom among the Jews, of dividing inheritances, whereby every one had his allotted portion; as if he had said, God is not only my rock to defend me from those tempests which assault me, and, thereby, my freedom from evil; but he is also my portion, to supply my necessities, and to give me the fruition of all good. Others, indeed, have their parts on this side the land of promise, but the author of all portions is the matter of my portion. My portion doth not lie in the rubbish and lumber, as theirs doth whose portion is in this life, be they never so large; but my portion containeth him whom the heavens, and heaven of heavens, can never contain. God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever; not for a year, or an age, or a million of ages, but for eternity. Though others' portions, like roses, the fuller they blow, the sooner they shed; they are worsted often by their pride, and wasted through their prodigality, so that at last they come to want -- and surely death always rends their persons and portions asunder; yet my portion will be ever full, without diminution. Without alteration, this God will be my God for ever and ever, my guide and aid unto death; nay, death, which dissolves so many bonds, and unties such close knots, shall never part me and my portion, but give me a perfect and everlasting possession of it. George Swinnock.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The psalmist's complaint: My flesh and my heart
- His comfort: But God, etc. Or, we may take
- Of the frailty of his flesh.
- Of the flourishing of his faith.
- That man's flesh will fail him. The highest,
the holiest man's heart will not always hold out. The
prophet was great and gracious, yet his flesh failed him.
- That it is the comfort of a Christian, in his
saddest condition, that God is his portion. G. Swinnock.
Verse 26. "The Fading of the Flesh," Swinnock's Treatise. (Nichol's Puritan Series.)
Verse 26. Where we fail and where we cannot fail.